Like a past their prime rock band, the Iowa State men's basketball team continues to play in front of dwindling crowds and only the faithful dozens are turning out these days. Where there used to be a buffet of the best booze and drugs and women, now there only lies a pile of low grade cigarettes and some bargain barrel whiskey.
Okay, so the fact that Iowa State is obligated to play road games in mostly empty arenas is no fault of their own, but instead a reflection on the sad state of the basketball programs in Fort Worth and Lubbock. Be that as it may, Iowa State's tilt against Texas Tech on Wednesday night is a game where the Cyclones can't afford to lose their focus.
I used to work in sales and my boss would send me on what she referred to as "paycheck road trips". These monthly drives to local businesses around central Iowa rarely yielded a big sale, but they were essential to my income and my monthly sales goals. These were longtime customers that pretty much always spent the same amount of money and as long as our company didn't screw things up, they were going to continue to do so. That was my mission; to go out on the road on these tedious trips and not come back empty handed.
That's kind of how I feel about Iowa State's current two-game swing through the state of Texas. It's a paycheck road trip. Beating TCU and Texas Tech isn't going to be all that rewarding, especially in terms of RPI and the post season resume, but as long as the Cyclones don't screw up, they're going to continue to win (or get paid).
It's easy to take a downtrodden program like TCU or Texas Tech for granted. On paper, neither team has any business posing a real threat to Iowa State, but the Cyclones have to make sure they don't come back empty handed. Come March, the NCAA tournament selection committee doesn't care that you beat a team like TCU or Texas Tech. In fact, they'll hardly give it a second thought. Lose to a team like that though, and then that committee is going to take a harder look at your overall resume.
About the Red Raiders
Record: 8-8, 1-4
KenPom.com Ranking: 260
Statistical Leaders: Points - Jaye Crockett, 13.6; Rebounds - Jaye Crockett, 8.3; Assists - Josh Gray, 2.6
Not much was expected of Texas Tech coming into this season, but the September dismissal of Billy Gillispie certainly didn't help matters. Assistant Chris Walker was named interim coach and he's done about as well as you could expect someone in his position to do - which isn't very well at all. I really could have pretty much copy and pasted the exact same things I wrote about TCU and made a few minor changes and it would all still hold true about Texas Tech. There's a bit more talent and Texas Tech certainly is a younger team with only one senior that nets any playing time. Forwards Jaye Crockett, Dejan Kravic and Jordan Tolbert are all guys that will return next season and freshman point guard Josh Gray looks like the type of guy that could really develop into a solid player over the next few years. Whomever Tech chooses to lead this program going forward should at least have a few guys to build around. That doesn't really help the present situation, tough.
In Big 12 play, Tech is an astounding last or second to last in the conference in the following categories: Scoring Average, Defensive Scoring Average, Scoring Margin, Field Goal Percentage, Defensive Field Goal Percentage, 3-Point Field Goal Percentage, Defensive 3-Point Field Goal Percentage, Rebounding, Rebounding Margin, Assists and Turnover Margin. There is literally nothing that this team does well, unless you count putting their uniforms on, in which case they seem to be at about the national average.
If you tuned into Saturday's game against TCU, you probably didn't come away too impressed. Sure Iowa State managed to win by 13 and was never really threatened, but the Cyclones gave up far too many offensive rebounds and just looked uninterested and sort of lifeless. Texas Tech is more athletic inside and if Iowa State doesn't bring a better effort to the boards, a guy like Jaye Crockett, who plays like Melvin Ejim, could really hurt ISU. Again, look for Tech to try and slow the game down and bleed out the shot clock. The Red Raiders were pretty effective playing this style against Kansas a couple weeks back and if they're going to keep the game close, they'll have to do it again Wednesday night.
For Iowa State, patience and hustle is key. The Cyclones can't get caught up in forcing shots and will have to move without the ball to set up open looks. Defensively, it will come down to playing team possession defense and limiting the Red Raiders to one shot. Fred Hoiberg was not impressed with Iowa State's rebounding effort against the Horned Frogs and I expect to see a more spirited effort on the boards tonight.
This may be another slow, painful grind, but Iowa State is just too talented and caused too many match up problems for Tech to really pose a threat. The Cyclones will lead by about 10 at half time and will end up winning by 14-18 points when it's all said and done.
Iowa State 73 - Texas Tech 57
Leave your predictions and thoughts in the comments below.
8 PM CST
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Texas Tech SBN Site: http://www.vivathematadors.com/